22 May 2018

The Essex Centre for Data Analytics

In their mission to reduce vulnerability, Essex police is currently developing an innovative approach to the use of analytics as a means of understanding, predicting and subsequently reducing risk.

This work forms part of the ongoing implementation of the Essex Centre for Data Analytics (ECDA).  The ECDA is an exciting police-led project designed to create a 'whole system approach' for integrating data and predicting risk, one which factors in the contribution that all partners can make in tackling the issue of vulnerability.

The aim of the ECDA is for public and private sector organisations to share their data and benefit from the analytical expertise offered by the Centre, increasing their knowledge, access to technology and the analysis of data at a greater scale. This shared resource will provide such organisations with greater insight into the area of vulnerability, helping them to predict risk to enable early prevention.

Michelle Eaton, Strategic Development Officer with Essex Police, tells us more about the ECDA.

We are currently in the process of establishing a multi-agency data sharing platform that combines and links data sets.   ECDA staff from Essex Police are working with colleagues from Essex County Council, who have a wealth of experience in this area following their involvement in a similar project, the Essex Data programme. The involvement of the County Council has brought technical expertise on establishing the platform and also provided reassurance to public sector colleagues who may be cautious around the ethics and security of sharing data.  Using an already tried and trusted platform, we can point to existing robust governance processes, and show that previous risk model prototypes have been well supported by the Whole Essex Information Sharing Framework (WEISF).

It's all very well and good having the data at our fingertips, but it's useless if we don't know what to do with it, so what next? 

The ECDA will bring together people with the skills and expertise in using the latest analytical techniques (e.g. big data and predictive analytics) in a central, jointly owned 'hub' in order to identify patterns, minimise risk and allocate resources in the most effective way.  Ultimately, it will support policing in its move away from number crunching towards a culture of performance measurement where the focus is on turning insight into action. 

Having the people with the right skills to do this is fundamental to the success of this project.  With ever changing technology and growing pools of big data, the skills and requirement of analysts must change with the times.  It is likely these analysts will be pooled from a number of the organisations invested in the success of the project, which has attracted widespread support. Our most recent workshop brought together representatives from policing, local authorities (county and district), the Behavioural Insights Team  as well as a number of national inspectorates/regulatory authorities and other agencies including: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS); Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX);  Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA); the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI); and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The workshop tested assumptions, explored data availability and discussed risks and opportunities. For example, mapping a victim journey through the system allowed contributors to share specialist knowledge and expertise on what the most significant touchpoints were with different agencies and what data could be collected at each point. 

Why is the ECDA different from other data analytics centres?

We believe that the ECDA is unique in its three tier structure.  Unlike other centres or offices for data analytics models, this centre will also host academic research and expertise from a range of institutes and universities on 'what works' in reducing risk and vulnerability.  This will support the robust evaluation of initiatives and interventions put in place through the ECDA, thereby demonstrating value for money and continuing to enhance our relationship with academia.

What happens next?

The project has now reached a pivotal stage as we arrive at the point of testing the concept. Essex Police has worked closely with the innovation foundation Nesta (which has a wealth of experience in the Office of Data Analytics (ODA) methodology) to develop this proof of concept.  The Team from Nesta speak from experience when they stress the need to identify a specific challenge area early on.  This was identified by partners as Modern Slavery and work has already commenced to identify and draw together the required datasets.

This project provides a unique window of opportunity across partnerships in a complex county.  Through ECDA we will support existing government initiatives in reducing vulnerability and victims of high harm crime. 

Thanks to the work we are doing now, we will soon be in a position to provide our frontline inspectors with data driven or informed insight that will help them to carry out their day job in a more targeted way, with a much better chance of a positive end result.


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